Five possible by-elections this year should throw plenty of spice into the Coalition mix
By-elections – over the decades, they have been to governments what the Ides of March were to Julius Caesar – something to be distinctly wary of.
It is not so much that, before 2011, no government had won a by-election for 30 years. Many of those losses were of little consequence – reversed within a year or two at the subsequent general election.
But some, particularly when there was a series of by-election setbacks, proved hugely significant. Two such losses in his home county of Cork in 1979 marked the beginning of the end for Jack Lynch's tenure as Taoiseach – just a couple of years after leading his party to its biggest majority.